06/09/2000 Chuck Anderson (Alabama)

Shark Attack Survivors News Archive for Shark Attacks in 2000.

Shark Survivor: "I Hit Back"

Postby sharkbait » Mon Apr 18, 2005 11:05 pm

Shark Survivor: "I Hit Back"
First Attack In Alabama Waters In 25 Years
Two Men Hurt; One Loses An Arm
June 10, 2000

GULF SHORES, Ala. (CBS) One of the men bitten by a shark at one of the Gulf Coast's most popular beaches says he survived by holding the shark's nose and hitting it, as it pushed him toward shore.

The attack early Friday prompted officials to close a 30-mile stretch of land at the height of tourist season.

Chuck Anderson, 44, a high school coach and vice principal, lost his right arm above the elbow. And Richard Watley, a 55-year-old Gulf Shores barber, was bitten on his right hip and right arm. They were among a group training for a triathlon when the shark attacked.

Watley said he survived because he refused to go down without a fight.

"I didn't know he was coming," Watley said Monday on the CBS News Early Show. "He came up beside me, you know, bumped me. Then when I looked down, I saw it was a shark. He was a big one."

The Orange Beach barber said he hit back.

"I would always be sure I had the shark by his nose to keep him from tearing me up because those teeth, they were just like machines coming after you," he said. "So I was keeping him away by holding his nose when he would charge me. Then every chance I would get is when I would hit him. And anyway, finally it worked out because each charge he would be pushing me in-shore instead."

Watley said he and the shark chased each other in to shore.

"Whenever the shark would break away, he would make his turn. I guess he would do a circle. I would swim as fast as I could and I'm just assuming it's probably a five to six-second burst I would get," he said. "I would always turn back to see if he was going to charge me again. Each time I would turn back, he was there. I mean, he was there! He was charging each time."

Early Show co-anchor Jane Clayson remarked it was just like the movie Jaws.

"Don't you know I was thinking of that," replied Watley.

Anderson's wife, Betsy Anderson, said her husband initially felt something underneath him.

"He thought it was a log or something," she said. "The next thing he remembered was the shark took his right hand. The only way he's alive is he pulled his arm out of the shark's mouth."

It wasn't immediately known what kind of shark attacked the men.

Clayson asked Watley if he would show his injuries on the television program.

"I would drop my pants but I don't want everyone to holler and scream," he said.

"Save it. This is a family show," replied Clayson.

Watley says he'll be back at Gulf Shores training for the triathlon.

"My buddy Chuck, he'll be back, too," Watley promised. "He'll be swimming with someone's flipper but he'll be back."
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Postby sharkbait » Tue Oct 04, 2005 10:42 am

Survivor shares shark tale at Huxford

By Adam Prestridge
Chuck Anderson is all too familiar with overcoming the odds.

On June 9, 2000, while swimming in Gulf Shores near the Pink Pony Pub, a seven and half foot, 325-pound bull shark attacked the then 45-year-old Frisco City native. Despite losing his arm during the struggle with the ferocious sharp-toothed fish, the Summerdale resident has made light of the incident and shared his story with students at Huxford Elementary School on Friday.

"When I laugh and make fun of myself the kids are more comfortable and interested in my story; it's a pretty gruesome story," he said. "I try to make light of it. It's extremely interesting to these kids. We've all been in the Gulf before and have always wondered what's out there. Thanks to me, we know what's out there."

Anderson, who serves as athletic director for Baldwin County Public Schools and was head football coach at Robertsdale High School for four years, was training for a triathlon when the shark attacked him. He relived the day with several of the classes at Huxford.

"The shark came from the bottom and attacked me four separate times," Anderson explained. "The first time he hit me about thigh high and rolled me around in the water. The second time he came from the bottom and I tried to push off him and he took all four of my fingers off my right hand. The third time he bumped me in the stomach and left a shark tooth scar and a big gash in my stomach. The fourth time, I was going to try to push off him again, but my right arm went into his mouth and he drug me straight down to the bottom, threw me around and came up to the surface with me still attached to him and pushed me all the way to the beach. He was laying completely down the right side of my body, on top of me and I tried to wiggle my hand out or jerk my arm out of his mouth and it stripped it down to the bone and my hand popped off in his mouth. From the sand bar we were stuck on, I fell backwards and ran to the beach from there."

The shark attack was the first recorded off the Alabama coastline in history.

"I was very fortunate that I didn't bleed out," Anderson said. "I had about 15.5 units of blood in my body and when I got to the hospital I had a little less than five units."

Anderson underwent several surgeries for months following the attack. Doctors were able to save two and a half inches of his arm below his elbow. He said he was fortunate that doctors were able to save that portion of his arm, which enables him to use prosthetics.

"I've got all kinds of stuff, but I don't use them," Anderson said. "They just get in the way."

The staff at Huxford Elementary was very pleased at the message Anderson sent to their students.

"I thought he did a wonderful job," guidance counselor Carol Middleton said. "We're focusing a lot of our efforts at the school on character education and so much of what he talked about just fit right in with our programs. Perseverance is what stuck in my mind most."

Anderson said teaching children perseverance is the main reason he shares his story with children throughout schools in Alabama.

"I just share my story with them and share my attitude with them that things could be worse," he said. "Everyday is a new experience for me. Losing your right arm isn't nearly as significant as losing my life. If that shark would have bitten a chunk out of my side, the good Lord wouldn't have given me the opportunity to see my wife and two children again. I look at it in a positive sense. I have There's nothing in life you can't do without a right arm, you just have to learn to do it a little bit different than you used to."

The 50-year-old has proven that he has learned to do things differently since losing his arm. He started the Salt Lake City Olympic torch run in Alabama in 2002 from Mobile.

His story has also been featured on several television shows including the Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, Discovery and Dateline NBC. There have also been stories written about Anderson's perseverance in Time Magazine, People magazine and National Geographic.

Anderson said he was most grateful to be able to live to see his children, Laura, 20, and Sam, 18, again. In fact, when his story was being featured on television, he didn't do them without his children by his side.

"Everybody we've met has been incredibly nice," Anderson said. "I don't travel without my kids and it's been a great opportunity for them to meet a lot of famous people and visit some really nice places."


http://www.atmoreadvance.com/articles/2 ... /news5.txt
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Postby sharkbait » Sun Jul 02, 2006 1:05 pm

BULL SHARK
Caution: Sh A rk crossing
Debris isn't the only clear and present danger in the Sound
By MICHAEL NEWSOM
Shark types
There are 30 species of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, but the most common off the Mississippi Coast are:

One in 11.5 million swimmers is at risk of being attacked by a shark, but for Chuck Anderson, those odds don't matter now. In June 2000, Anderson lost his arm to a 7½-foot bull shark just 150 yards off the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala. And from what South Mississippi fishermen and some shark researchers have seen lately, the opportunity for human encounters with sharks may be growing. Biloxi-based charter-boat captain Kenny Bellais is among several anglers who said last week more sharks seem to be coming closer to shore. "I have never seen that many of them," said Bellais, who operates Fish On Charters. "There is an abundance of them close to the shore." Normally, "you catch enough of them near the shore, but it sure has changed since the storm." Bellais said he has seen spinner sharks flipping in the air at the Gulfport Marina, something he had never seen in a lifetime of fishing the area. Shark researchers are finishing a three-year study of the Mississippi Sound's top predator, and they say the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the South Mississippi shark population are unclear right now. They also are uncertain about whether there are more sharks in the water, but they do believe a higher salt concentration is making the creatures move closer to the shore and also into the bayous and rivers. The drought has likely increased salt levels, they say. Bellais said he believes many more sharks moved in after Katrina, and never left. Eric Hoffmayer, a research associate at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, said sharks won't leave an area where the food is readily available to them. Hoffmayer is finishing his three-year survey of sharks in Coast waters. He said for the most part, the jury is still out. He said he has actually seen fewer sharks this year. This could be caused by the higher salt levels across the Coast, which are allowing the same number of sharks to be spread over a larger area. Although he could not determine if there is a difference in the shark population this year, he said there was a significant increase from 2004 to 2005, but the number seems to be down from those figures this year. Researchers don't agree on exactly what is going on in the Gulf, but they do agree sharks are unpredictable and there are few concrete facts about them. George Burgess, director of the University of Florida's program for shark research and curator of the International Shark Attack File, a collection of studies on 2,700 attacks, said the area has plenty of sharks. "There is no doubt that the northeastern Gulf of Mexico off of Mississippi is a good, sharky area," he said. Burgess said he believes the number of attacks will increase over the next 10 years because more people are going into the water, especially along the Florida Panhandle and the Alabama and Mississippi coasts. But he also said the number of attacks per capita would not increase due to declining shark population and an increasing human population. Nearly five years ago this week, Jessie Arbogast of Ocean Springs, 8 years old at the time, was attacked by a 200-pound bull shark about 15 feet from the shore in Pensacola. Relatives were able to fight the shark off, but Arbogast lost most of the blood in his body and suffered brain damage. On Tuesday, a 9-year-old girl survived an attack by a shark near Fort Pierce, Fla., on the Atlantic Coast, according to The Associated Press. Bull sharks account for a goodly number of attacks in the Gulf of Mexico and also have been known to travel far upriver. Commercial fishermen caught an 84-pound bull shark in the Mississippi River near Alton, Ill., in 1937, according to in-fisherman.com. But Burgess stressed attacks by any species are rare. From 1990 to 2004, more than 9,300 Americans were killed in bicycle accidents; eight were killed by sharks during that time, according to the International Shark Attack File. On the day of Anderson's attack, the triathlete went into the water with a group of friends just after 5 a.m. They were swimming near the Pink Pony Pub, a Gulf Shores landmark, when the shark struck. After a few quick rushes, the bull shark bit off the fingers on Anderson's right hand. It finally pulled Anderson to the bottom of the Gulf. "When he bit me, my arms went in his mouth and the shark took me immediately to the bottom of the Gulf, skinned up my arm and hip, and threw me around like a rag doll," Anderson said. "That is when me and the Lord had a pretty serious conversation." Somehow he made it to shore, but without his right arm. Anderson, who turned 50 last year, has completed 13 triathlons since the attack, but he said he would never swim in the early-morning hours again, something scientists say is a good idea because sharks feed at that time and often confuse humans with food. "I was the biggest breakfast buffet in the water that day," he said.

Tips to help you avoid a shark encounter:

• Always stay in groups; sharks are more likely to attack an individual.

• Do not wander too far from shore. This isolates you, and places you far away from assistance.

• Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage.

• Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open wound or if menstruating - sharks have a keen sense of smell.

• Don't wear shiny jewelry; the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.

• Avoid waters with known effluents or sewage and those being used by sport or commercial fisherman, especially if there are signs of bait fishes or feeding activity. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such action.

• Use extra caution when waters are murky and avoid uneven tanning and brightly colored clothing - sharks see contrast particularly well.

• Refrain from excess splashing and do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic movements.

• Exercise caution when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep dropoffs - these are favorite hangouts for sharks.

• Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present; get out the water if sharks are seen there.

- GEORGE H. BURGESS, INTERNATIONAL SHARK ATTACK FILE

For more details about sharks that live in area waters, read Al Jones'

column at http://www.sunherald.com

Coming Monday: Some cleaned, but there's plenty, still, to be wary of on and around Katrina-beaten beaches.

Safety tips

http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/ ... 951171.htm
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Postby sharkbait » Sun Oct 29, 2006 10:42 am

The big, bad bully of the sea
Sharp teeth, warm water and a man they call 'Lefty.’


By JEFF KLINKENBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published June 25, 2006

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[AP photo]
Chuck Anderson rides his bicycle using a special sleeve for his arm. Anderson completed a triathlon 10 months after he was attacked by a bull shark.
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Hear part of Jeff Klinkenberg’s interview with shark attack victim Chuck Anderson. (Graphic content viewer discretion advised.)
Go to audio report

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[Times photo/illustration: John Corbitt]
“They’re very sturdy sharks. They’re built like linebackers. They’re very aggressive, yet when I net one, it always seems calm. It’s like it knows it’s the king of the hill.”
— MICHELLE HEUPEL, Mote Marine Lab scientist

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[Times photo (2005): Lara Cerri]
Jay and Karen Cloutier take photos of a shark that had been drawn into Tampa Bay by Red Tide, which kills fish, thus making them an easy meal for the predator.
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[AP photo 2005]
A bull shark swims in the gulf near Miramar Beach. Bull sharks feed on large prey close to shore during summer — at a time when people are flocking to the beach.
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[AP photo]
Chuck Anderson was training for a triathlon six years ago in the Gulf of Mexico when he was attacked by a bull shark and lost his arm.
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SUMMERDALE, Ala. — Chuck Anderson used to be right-handed. Now he calls himself “Lefty.’’ Bull sharks get hungry.
He still swims. He has learned how to pull goggles over his head with one hand. When he wears a rubber fin on his stump, he feels as strong in the water as the old triathlon champion he used to be.


When he swims in the Gulf of Mexico he feels as vulnerable as a crippled mullet.


“Clear water, no problem,’’ he says. “Dirty water, or when I can’t see what’s around me, I’m an unhappy guy.’’
As he trains for a triathlon later this summer, he hesitates every time he ducks his head under the water.



* * *

Alligators may have a better press agent these days, but the bull shark is the gulf region’s most fearsome animal. Robust creatures, they sometimes exceed 9 feet and 500 pounds. With their massive heads, wide jaws and voracious appetites, they easily live up to their name.


“They have one of the highest levels of testosterone in the animal kingdom,’’ says Dr. Robert Hueter , director of shark studies for Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota County.


When a bather is killed or maimed in the South, especially in the gulf, the bull shark is inevitably the prime suspect. They feed on large prey close to shore during summer — just when folks are going to the beach.


Bull sharks have no particular taste for the human metatarsal. But when you add millions of swimmers to a subtropical ocean and stir in hundreds of feeding sharks, sooner or later somebody gets unlucky.


Even so, sharks bothered only 18 bathers in Florida last year. We are more likely to get hurt driving to the beach, exasperated marine biologists remind us.


“Say the word 'shark’ and the first image most people conjure up is a Jaws-inspired white shark devouring unsuspecting bathers,’’ says George Burgess , director of the International Shark Attack File on the University of Florida campus.
For the record, nobody has ever been mauled by a great white shark in Florida. Whites are a cold-water animal that rarely venture close to shore in southern oceans.


We have the bull shark.


Which, as Chuck Anderson can tell you, is plenty of shark.



* * *

A swimmer anywhere in the world has a one in 11.5-million chance of becoming a victim, according to the International Shark Attack File.


Nobody in a century had been attacked by a shark at an Alabama seashore until Chuck Anderson went for his triathlon training swim in 2000.


The most likely place in the world to have an unhappy encounter with a shark is Volusia County on Florida’s east coast.
Swimmers who visit the beaches of Daytona Beach or New Smyrna don’t automatically land on the menu, even though thousands of bathers cavort in turbulent water loaded with baitfish and sharks with poor vision.


During summer, schools of small blacktip and spinner sharks — usually 4 feet long or less — chase sardines and mullet through the surf. About a dozen times a year they mistake a hand or foot for a meal. The victim ends up at an emergency room with stitches and a story to tell.


In the last century, 182 swimmers have been nipped by sharks in Volusia County. Yet there has never been a fatality.
Shark experts differentiate between what happens on Florida’s east coast and on the gulf coast.


“On the east coast, we have what I call 'shark bites,’ ’’ says Mote Marine’s Bob Hueter. “In the gulf, we have fewer incidents, but they are often what I call 'attacks.’ The animals are bigger and do more damage.’’


A 400-pound bull shark killed 69-year-old Thadeus Kubinski after he dove off the dock behind his Boca Ciega Bay home in southern Pinellas County in 2000.


In 2001 — “The Summer of the Shark,’’ according to Time magazine — a bull shark removed the arm of 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast while he played in the gulf near Pensacola. Doctors reattached the arm, though the boy suffered brain damage from loss of blood.


If bull sharks were looking to gobble humans, nobody would be safe in the water. But they would rather use their powerful jaws and serrated teeth to devour sting rays and sea turtles. They are especially fond of tarpon, the popular game fish known for strength, endurance and jumping ability.


In the summer, schools of the silver beauties swim along the gulf beaches. Over at the Redington Long Pier, in coastal Pinellas, anglers hook tarpon and watch in dismay as bull sharks bite the fish in half. A bull shark occasionally chases a hooked 7-foot tarpon into the surf.


“Everybody on the pier yells 'Shark!’ ’’ explains angler Ken Bednarski . “All the swimmers run out of the water.’’
At Boca Grande, in Charlotte County, bull sharks make life interesting for tarpon and tarpon fishers during summer. “Bull sharks have developed pack hunting techniques,’’ says fishing guide Dave Markett .


Like the more dramatic-looking but less potent hammerheads, bull sharks lurk under boats and wait for an angler to engage a tarpon. A free-swimming tarpon usually can evade a bull shark, but a hooked one nearing exhaustion is easy pickings. Sometimes several bull sharks tear apart a 150-pound tarpon at boat side.


Scientists are studying the phenomenon. In most of the world, shark populations are declining because of overfishing and habitat destruction. “But in Florida, fishermen say they have never seen so many bull sharks,’’ says Mote’s Hueter. “We’re trying to find out if that’s true, and if it’s true, why.’’



* * *

“Serpents, bears, hyenas, tigers rapidly vanish as civilization advances, but the most populous and civilized city cannot scare a shark far from its wharves,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in Cape Cod.


Last year a toxic Red Tide killed millions of fish in west-central Florida. The dead and dying stacked up against seawalls.
For bull sharks it was better than a fast food restaurant. In St. Petersburg, early-morning strollers saw them feasting along docks and seawalls.


Bull sharks are common in the bay. They even like canals that feed into the bay. In fact, they are the only known shark species that can live for long spells in fresh water. They swim 2,500 miles up the Amazon River. They attack bathers in Central America’s Lake Nicaragua. A dead one was found in Florida’s Lake Okeechobee last summer. Residents of the Land of Lincoln have spotted bull sharks in the Mississippi — 1,800 miles from the gulf.


In the ocean, an immature shark is food for countless predators. In fresh water, a young bull shark that evades a sluggish alligator is probably going to reach adulthood.


A Mote Marine Lab scientist, Michelle Heupel studies bull sharks in the Caloosahatchee River, which feeds into Lake Okeechobee. She nets them 18 miles from the gulf, fits them with radio transmitters and studies their movement .
“They’re very sturdy sharks,’’ she says. “They’re built like linebackers. They’re very aggressive, yet when I net one, it always seems calm. It’s like it knows it’s the king of the hill.’’



* * *

Chuck Anderson was born in 1955 and grew up in Alabama. He was a water boy, one of those Southern kids who couldn’t get enough of swimming, skiing and fishing in Mobile Bay. His dad — everybody called him “Lefty” even though he had both of his arms — was a football coach.Chuck played quarterback in high school. He threw a tight spiral, never suffered from a lack of confidence and thought he might have a career after high school.


It didn’t happen. He got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, taught social studies in high school and ended up a football coach like his dad. Folks in South Alabama still call Chuck “Coach” even though he has directed the athletic department for Baldwin County’s school system for five years.


He spends his days traveling from school to school in his Ford pickup, his cell phone at the ready. Sometimes a caller from a school asks him to jot down a phone number.


“Too dangerous,’’ he says in a fried mullet accent, explaining that his only hand is gripping the phone and he’s steering with his knees. His bike, running shoes and swimming equipment often lie in the truck bed. He weighed 275 pounds until he started exercising 13 years ago. Now he’s a solid 225.


He has competed in triathlons all over the South, including Florida, mostly in the Panhandle but also in Pinellas and Sarasota counties.


He lives 15 minutes from the gulf, where he has done most of his 87 triathlons and hundreds of training swims. Nothing bad ever happened to him — except once.


He uses a prosthetic only when riding his bicycle. He slips the stump into a fiberglass sleeve on the handlebars. He pedals 35 to 70 miles a week, runs another 20 and tries to swim a mile or two. The water in a pool is always clear.


He has never been self-conscious about the missing arm. In South Alabama, and in the Florida Panhandle, he’s known for his sense of humor and good cheer. Strangers shake his left hand. In photos, Anderson beams and waves the stump at the camera.



* * *

The Timex Triathlon watch on Chuck Anderson’s right wrist beeped at 5:15 a.m. It was June 9, 2000, and he had a date at Gulf Shores with triathlon buddies. He wanted to stay in bed but finally thought “the heck with it” and got up. If he wimped out, he’d never hear the end of it.


He liked those training swims in the gulf. They were challenging. They were macho. In the gulf, there is no black line on the bottom to follow. In big waves, you swallow water. In turbid water, you fight your fear of drowning, of swimming into a raft of jellyfish, of the unspeakable appetites of big fish.


He parked at the Pink Pony pub, a landmark on the beach. He was early. So were two other athletes. They decided to do a short swim while waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive.


Richard Watley swam out first. Soon he was swimming along the beach 200 yards out. Anderson and Karen Forfar swam together about 150 yards offshore. Anderson was a strong swimmer, but Forfar was better. She forged ahead.


Anderson glanced at his Timex: 6:38 a.m. He and Karen would swim for another 7 minutes before joining the main party of triathletes on the beach. Then they’d swim their regular 1.25 miles.


It was a windy morning. Bruise-colored clouds scudded across the sky. In the high waves Anderson tried not to swallow the gulf.



* * *

Something very large and very heavy smashed into his thigh.


It hit so hard he was nearly blasted out of the water.


He yelled with all his might at whatever was below him to “STOP! STOP! STOP! NO, NO, NO!’’ as if it were a bad dog. Then he shouted for Karen to get out of the water.


His first impulse was to swim toward shore like an Olympian. Then he thought better of it. If something was approaching, he wanted to see it coming.


He floated on his back, pointed his head toward shore and kicked and paddled. Nothing. He ducked under the water for a fast look. Through his goggles he saw a dark shape emerging from the gloom.


He stuck out his right arm to fend it off.


He felt contact, but no pain despite the blood in the water. He stared at his hand in disbelief. Only the thumb remained.
Beseeching God in one breath and shrieking profanities in the next, he somehow advanced toward shore. He took another peek in the water. Too late. The shark rushed up and bit him on the stomach before vanishing into the murk.
Shore seemed a long way off.


The beast came up 20 yards away. It swam straight for him, dorsal slicing the water like something out of Jaws.


The former quarterback tried a stiff arm. His arm ended up inside the shark’s maw. The shark dragged him 15 feet to the bottom, shaking him the whole way. He wondered if he’d see his kids again.


The shark surfaced with him in its jaws.


Then a miracle.


The shark — he could see it was about 8 feet long — sped toward the beach. Anderson felt like he was water skiing.
His heels dragged bottom.


Suddenly man and beast stopped. Anderson lay on his back on a sandbar with the 300-pound bogeyman crushing his right side. He was afraid the shark was going to bite off his face. At least it would have to release his arm first.


The shark wouldn’t let go. As it began wiggling free of the sandbar, Anderson staggered to his feet and tried to reclaim the limb. He jerked on the arm three times, adrenaline masking the pain, but the shark hung on.


He hauled on his arm with all his might, using his back like a landscaper trying to uproot a dead hibiscus. A surgeon later described what happened as “degloving.’’ The skin and muscle below the elbow were raked off the bone by the teeth.


Anderson heard a loud pop. The shark had just bitten off his hand.


Anderson tumbled backward as he came free. He somehow got up and lumbered through the shallows to the beach. He glanced at the bare bone and decided he wouldn’t look again.


Karen Forfar, his swimming buddy, took a long look and screamed.


“My God! Chuck, your arm is gone!’’


“Next time I do a triathlon,’’ Anderson gasped, “I’ll be in the physically challenged division.’’


He told her he was going to bleed to death if he didn’t get a tourniquet.


The 62-year-old woman began peeling off her one-piece bathing suit, but a construction worker came by and offered his shirt instead.


Out in the gulf, Richard Watley , the last triathlete in the water, was on his way in, oblivious. As he approached the sandbar, the bull shark bit him on the knee and buttocks. Bleeding, Watley jogged out of the water and reclined on a bench near his buddy.


The ambulance arrived.


Watley’s injuries weren’t serious. Examining Anderson, paramedics radioed for a helicopter. “He’s lost a lot of blood,’’ a paramedic said. Anderson heard everything. He never fainted.


It was too overcast and windy for a helicopter to land. The patient arrived at South Baldwin Hospital in the ambulance.
In the operating room, Dr. John Rodriguez-Feo completed the amputation, staunched the bleeding and reattached muscle.
Happy to be alive, Anderson enjoyed serenading nurses with Jimmy Buffett:


Can’t you feel ’em circlin’ honey?
Can’t you feel ’em swimmin’ around?
You got fins to the left, fins to the right,
and you’re the only bait in town.


“I don’t blame the shark,’’ he told friends. “It was just being a shark. In fact, I feel sorry for it. That shark is going to have to wake up every morning at 5:15 when my Timex starts beeping.’’



* * *

Chuck focused on learning how to live without his arm. His wife, Betsy, helped him button his pants. She tied his shoes. At least nobody expected him to wear a tie to work.


He relied on his teeth to do a lot of the work.


“If I lose my teeth I’m in trouble,’’ he told Betsy.


He told Betsy he wasn’t going to quit triathlons. She wasn’t surprised. After all, he had gone for a 3-mile walk his first day out of the hospital.


Physical therapist Jennifer Davis agreed that having a goal might help her patient. “The clients who are afraid to climb back onto the horse never seem to fully recover,’’ she says. “It’s the passionate people who do well. Chuck had this passion about doing another triathlon.’’


At first, Davis encouraged him to move what remained of his arm. When he could do it without grimacing, she attached weights to the stump. Muscle appeared.


At first he couldn’t swim a lap in the pool without exhaustion. Soon he could swim 60. Davis modified a swim paddle to fit the stump. Now he swam fast, like Tarzan.


He wouldn’t embarrass himself in front of the other athletes.



* * *

On April 21, 2001, 10 months after his injury, he showed up at the Mullet-Man Triathlon in Florabama, held at the border of the two states. His friends were overjoyed to see him. The national media was in attendance. He tried to put aside his fear when the starter’s gun sounded.


He ran 4 miles in 28 minutes and pedaled 16 miles in 48. He covered a quarter mile in the gulf in less than six minutes.
He finished first in the over 200-pound division of the triathlon.


Hundreds of people shook his left hand, slapped his back, saluted his courage.


He hated every second of a swim that had once brought him pleasure.



* * *

He and Betsy divorced in 2002.


“What happened to me was much harder on my family than on me,’’ Anderson says now.


Betsy, who had never smoked, died of lung cancer in 2004.


Anderson’s son, Sam, confronted the bogeyman by hanging posters of bull sharks in his room. Laura, his daughter, eventually had the courage to dip her toes into the gulf.


“My theory is that something like this could never happen twice to people from the same family,’’ she told friends.
Anderson kept competing in triathlons.


In 2004, while swimming in a race in Mobile Bay, he felt like something awful was about to happen.
WHAM!


Something large and ominously heavy crashed into his head. He stopped dead in the water and screamed for help.



* * *

It wasn’t a bull shark.


It was a log.


He finished the race, but hated the panic and the fact a lifeguard had helped calm him down. He decided he was sick of triathlons.


“I’ve done enough of them,’’ he told his pals.


He changed his mind in 2005. He’d confront his fears. He trained hard for the Sandestin Triathlon, held in the Florida Panhandle every August.


A month before the race, Jaimie Daigle , 14, was paddling a boogie board in the gulf near Destin when a bull shark grabbed her. She bled to death.


Two days later, Craig Hutto, 16, was wade fishing for spotted sea trout in the gulf near Apalachicola . A bull shark mutilated his leg, which had to be amputated at the hospital.


Anderson decided not to do the triathlon.


The Sandestin race is coming up again. A few months ago he began training.


He runs, rides and does his swimming in a pool. The triathlon swim will cover a half mile in the gulf. Not very far, but too far for comfort. He used to swim 1.25 miles in the gulf three times a week without a second thought.


Now all he has are second thoughts.


“This might be my last triathlon,’’ he says. “I mean, I really don’t have anything to prove anymore, do I?’’



* * *


Over at Gulf Shores, pelicans try to answer that question the only way they can, by bobbing in the rough gulf beyond the breakers. Bathers crowd the shallows behind the Pink Pony on E Beach Boulevard. Jimmy Buffett is on the jukebox, and it sounds like Fins at first, but it turns out to be that sturdy beach-bar anthem, Margaritaville.

The blood-stained bench where Chuck Anderson lay down his mutilated body six summers ago is gone. For years the bench was a macabre tourist attraction.Hurricane Ivan washed it away in 2004.


Now there is no sign of what happened to him on this Gulf of Mexico beach, no sign of a bull shark that got hungry.
Jeff Klinkenberg can be reached at (727) 893-8727 or klink@sptimes.com. Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.

FURTHER STUDY
For information about shark studies at Mote Marine Laboratory, go to http://www.mote.org.


To learn more about dangers posed by sharks, visit the International Shark Attack File Web site at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Sharks and click on “International Shark Attack File.”


To see a video of bull sharks attacking a hooked tarpon, go to http://www.gianttarpon.com/sharkbroad.htm.



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Postby sharkbait » Mon Jul 09, 2007 8:16 pm

Shark attack victim going strong
By Ross Wood




Anderson prepares to hit the cycling part of a contest. Photo courtesy Chuck Anderson

"It’s been a lot of fun because my kids have gotten to see a lot of places they never would have and I have gotten to meet a lot of people I never would have met," Chuck Anderson said. "But I’d take my right arm back in a minute."

Just over four years ago Anderson, who lives in Summerdale, lost about one-third of his right arm when a bull shark attacked him in the waters about 100 feet off the beach at Gulf Shores. He was training for an upcoming triathlon with his friend Richard Watley.

Watley was attacked as well but suffered only puncture wounds.

Anderson is the son of Don "Lefty" and Jimmy Lee Anderson of Mobile. Lefty’s mother, Tosie Anderson, was the sister of Tom Deas from Jackson, Gilmer Deas from Coffeeville and Iola Robinson from Thomasville.



Chuck Anderson comes ashore from the swimming leg of a triathlon. The special swim fin he uses is visible. Photo courtesy Chuck Anderson

Anderson’s son Sam will be a senior at Robertsdale this year. His daughter Laura will be a freshman at Auburn.

The elder Anderson was one of the best coaches in Mobile County and the county Coach of the Year award, presented to the top high school coach in that area, is named for him.

"There is just no way to describe what it felt like when the shark attacked," Anderson said, describing the attack that occurred in April of 2000. "Until it has happened to you, you just don’t know."

Those feelings of the attack and how it actually felt were brought back in stark contrast when Anderson went to visit Trenton Martin, a 7-year-old boy from Oden, Ark. who was attacked on the weekend of the Fourth of July while vacationing at Gulf Shores.

"On the way to the hospital I started thinking about the things I went through after my attack," Anderson said. "I was hoping he wouldn’t have to go through the same things."

Anderson was unsure how to enter the boy’s room without causing fear, but Martin’s father assured him that everything would be fine.

"He was very upbeat about everything," he said. "We started talking about what happened and as he described the attack, it brought back a lot of memories.

"When he told how the shark shook him, he looked at me and said, ‘But you know how it feels’," Anderson said. "We were the only two people in the room who knew that feeling."

After the attack, and his eventual recovery, Anderson got the chance to tell his story all over the country, including stops on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live.

Two weeks after the Larry King Show, Anderson went to the Seaworld shark tank to do a show with Nigel Marvin from the Discovery Channel.

Later they went to Walker’s Cay in the Bahamas with Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws.

"Erich Ritter was down there a few days earlier and was attacked by a shark," Anderson said. "Erich was supposed to be on a dive with us for the Discovery Channel program.

"After that attack, they had a platform above the sharks, bull sharks like the one that attacked me," he said. "I just couldn’t get on that platform near those bull sharks. It just brought back too many memories."

More recently Anderson traveled to Orlando to do a segment on shark attack survivors for National Geographic.

"I’m not real sure how they were able to get in touch with me," Anderson said. "But I met some very nice people down there." Two surfers who had survived attacks were there too.

Walk with Anderson almost anywhere near the Gulf Coast beaches and you’ll see just how recognizable he is.

"I appreciate people’s concern for me," he said. "They have all been very kind. I just happen to be someone who is sharing the knowledge of what’s out there in the water."

Since the attack Anderson has competed in 17 triathlons, including the World Championship in Cancun in 2003.

A triathlon consists of a swim, a bike ride and a distance run, the distance varies for all three.

Anderson, to be able to compete again, has a special prosthetic fin used for the swimming part and another prosthesis on his bike for that part of the competition.

"I remember that first triathlon," Anderson said. "It was at the Flora-Bama and it was hard, especially with everyone watching.

"But having all of those people around probably helped me through it," he added.

Anderson, because of the attack that took part of his arm, has had to make changes to the way he prepares for these contests.

"It takes a special commitment," he said. "And it is just so much more difficult to prepare for."

Prior to the attack Anderson coached at Robertsdale High. Since then he has become the Athletic Director for all Baldwin County schools.

"Dad was a coach and mom coached and taught P.E. so coaching was something I grew up around," he said. "If the situation was right, I wouldn’t mind getting back into coaching."

Anderson looks at every day as a gift since the attack.

"You get a different perspective after something like that," he said. "I have learned to do a lot of things with one arm and it hasn’t been easy."

Anderson’s story is an important reminder to everyone, young and old alike, of the possible dangers with sharks on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.


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